Church foundation: Eating from gardens we didn’t plant

Alan Briggs   It’s easy to criticize that which we don’t understand. As a young church leader there is a lot I don‘t understand about about where the Church has come from in the last 50 years. I don’t understand why some of the patterns stuck, how massive culture shifts changed views of the Church and the weight of the expectations put on church leaders and families. All of that said, it’s easy for us young leaders to criticize the Church of the last era.   This negativity is not okay. Our pride and arrogance slips out when we do this. We burn bridges. We fail to learn from the past. We fail to honor leaders and the sacrifices they made to “push the ball down the field”. Young church leaders; we need to stop criticizing and pretending we have all the answers.   Entering into their labor In the Book of John we find Jesus lifting the disciples eyes to the harvest. Jesus tells them, “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:38) We are getting to touch some amazing things in the Church today. We get to experience new freedoms in the Church; ministry models, redefining of the role of pastors, re-empowering volunteers to a new level, sending leaders and planting different flavors of churches. This is a good day in many pockets of the American Church. As we experience these new freedoms and victories we must remember that they have very little to do with us. We stand on the shoulders of leaders who paved the way before us.   Nothing to do with us I live in an older house with character. My neighborhood has large trees, classic designs and detached garages. When we moved into our house my wife and I immediately saw the things we wanted to change and update, and easily overlooked the character of the house. We have done a good bit of updating, but we have also come to appreciate all the work the previous owners did. They built a beautiful addition, planted rose bushes and designed a patio area. When people come over and tell us how much they love our home we are quick to share about the time, energy and money previous owners poured into this house. We get to enjoy things we had nothing to do with building.   The same is true of the Church. We are bearing spiritual fruit from gardens we didn’t plant. Leaders before us did a lot of good work. Although many church expressions might seem old-school today they were innovative in their day. They made a lot of sacrifices. They led people to Jesus. They walked the ground and prayed for the people in our cities before we did. That deserves our honor.

Published January 15, 2015